Martin part of new history at FHSU
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Fort Hays State University made history Friday with the naming of its first woman president.
At a special meeting of the Kansas Board of Regents on the FHSU campus, Mirta Martin was named the ninth president of the 112-year-old university.
She will take over for Edward Hammond, who is retiring from the presidency this summer after 27 years at the post.
Martin, a native of Cuba, also will be FHSU's first Hispanic president.
"I'm very honored to be making history," the 52-year-old Martin said. "It's a change of times."
The presidential search committee narrowed the list of applicants to five finalists, who came to campus during a three-week period in March and April. The committee then gave the regents a list of finalists to interview.
One of them was Martin, dean of the Reginald F. Lewis School of Business at Virginia State University in Richmond since 2009.
Martin made the trip to Topeka with her husband, John, for Thursday's interviews and was offered the job late that afternoon. Soon afterward, a special meeting for the board was scheduled for Friday in Hays.
Fred Logan, chairman of the Board of Regents, said at Friday's meeting "selecting a president is about identifying the person that fits the university."
Logan introduced Martin and her husband to a large gathering in the Ballroom of the Memorial Union, and the couple was met with loud applause.
"In assessing the candidates, we focused on who would embrace and enhance the traditions and achievements of Fort Hays State University," Logan said. "The Kansas Board of Regents is fully supportive of this new president and the direction she will lead Fort Hays State University into the future.”
Martin said she plans to "hit the ground running" at Fort Hays, and she is looking forward to "continuing making history."
“The future of the nation lies in the pursuit of academic excellence,” she said. "Progress is not possible without vision, leadership and trust. As your president, my priority is to enable you to become your best self.”
Martin came to America as a 5-year-old with her grandmother and younger sister, escaping the Communist regime but leaving other family members behind.
“Dr. Mirta Martin is the personification of the American dream,” Logan said. “She has been successful in every challenge she has ever faced. She will be successful at Fort Hays State University.”
Martin said she is "filled with enthusiasm and relentless determination to make a difference at a university that (mirrors) my values, sense of vision, philosophy of education and a commitment to service."
And, she added, “I believe my selection as president is an affirmation of the regents’ and Fort Hays State University’s commitment to entrepreneurial leadership, opportunity, diversity and innovation.”
The Martins, parents of two college-age children, plan to move to Hays in June.